city folks who can't tell an emu from a turkey can spot a Texas longhorn cow when
they see one. There's no such thing as an Oklahoma longhorn or California longhorn.
Longhorns are as Texan as it gets.|
Like the people who forged the state,
the longhorn is a product of the land. Or as Frank
Dobie put it, "The Texas longhorn was bred not by man but shaped by nature
and man benefited."
Photo courtesy John Stankewitz 04-25-2006
benefited the most. The longhorn is credited with lifting the state from economic
ruin wrought by the Civil War and becoming the foundation of a vast cattle empire.
The longhorn gave us cattle drives and folk heroes we called cowboys. More than
any other creature, the longhorn gave Texas an identity
separate from the rest of the country.|
Other breeds of cattle, like the
Hereford and Angus, were created by selective crossbreeding. The longhorn's evolution
began in 1493 when Columbus made a return voyage to the New World and dropped
off a load of Spanish cattle at Santo Domingo.
|A couple of hundred
years later cattle were driven across the Rio Grande into Texas
to provide meat for the missions. By the time of Republic of Texas, wild cattle
roamed all over the state, as wild as buffalo or bear or any other creature eking
out a hardscrabble existence from an often unforgiving land.|
cattle were brought here by some of the early settlers, but some of those cows
wandered off or were chased off by Indians. The various bloodlines contributed
to what would become known as the Texas Longhorn, a creature every bit a match
for the state that created it.
Joe B. Frantz wrote of the Longhorns: "They were built for travel, because they
had strolled their way a thousand miles from Vera Cruz; and they grew long horns
because they had to learn to fight off predators in the brush.|
days of the Republic of Texas and thereafter they cross-bred somewhat with cattle
brought in from the Old South, which helped their beef content without destroying
"Like two-legged Texans, they operated best when left
essentially alone, and they need looking after only at twice-a-year roundups -
one for branding and one for slaughter."
Their toughness and endurance
made them perfect candidates for the fabled cattle drives out of Texas
on the Chisholm Trail. They had long
legs, hard hooves and endured hunger and thirst better than other breeds. Long-horns
ate grass that other cattle wouldn't. Cattle drives that would have decimated
lesser breeds suited the longhorns just fine. Most even gained weight on the drives.
Just as the gunslinger, Comanches, buffalo
and Indian fighters had seen their day come and go, so it seemed to be with the
wire and the end of the open range made such tough and durable cattle not
so necessary, especially after people started breeding them with Durhams and Herefords.
By the 1920s, the longhorn had been almost been bred out of existence.
TEX" Famous Texas Longhorn Steer Horns Over 8 Feet Tip to Tip|
| In 1927, the Forest
Service collected a small herd of breeding stock and moved them to the Wichita
Mountain Wildlife Refuge in - gasp! - Oklahoma. Small herds were gathered for
state parks. Ranchers started buying them again.|
At first the longhorns
were considered a novelty, a nostalgic throwback, but the breed's endurance, strong
immune system, fertility and its ability to live on less than ideal pastures began
endearing it to another generation of cattle men.
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/%7Etxpstcrd/
Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America in Fort
Worth has grown from an initial membership of 12 in 1964 into an organization
with more than 5,000 members.|
The association's website lists about 50
Texas breeders, including Larry Stewart of Lazy L Long-horns in Lampasas County.
On his website, Stewart has this to say about Texas longhorns:
impressive creatures will prosper on grass that other cattle could not survive,
go without water for days on end, protect each other from harm, attend to a member
of their herd that is sick or wounded, calve effortlessly and amaze you with their
intelligence. But these are not the real reasons we are so fascinated with them.
| "The glint of sunlight
off a crown of burnished horn, the profusion of bright earthy colors of a herd
moving, the sights and sounds of the herd as it grazes, the fact they are just
plain easy on the eyes, or the certain knowledge that you are in contact with
a piece of Texas history, and any
of these or all of these are why we are drawn to these gentle giants.|
"I know of no other breed that captures the imagination quite like longhorns do."
© Clay Coppedge
from Central Texas"
7, 2006 column
Cattle | Texas
| Related Articles:|
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branding, taming, raising and driving longhorns to market...
the University of Texas' Longhorn Mascot by Mike Cox